Saturday, April 7, 2018

"I Could Find That Even With My Eyes Closed"

How often have we thought or actually said something like we could locate or find something in our home or office in the dark or even if we closed our eyes and walked to it with looking? This comes from having an inherent familiarity with the layout of our home and where we have stored or placed items rather than trying to prove that we actually don't need to see where things are.

The only wrinkle in not being able to see where we are going comes when something in our path is out of place. What if we find that we literally can walk to an object, switch, room, or area of the home and know how to get there so well that we really could get there blindfolded? Then, what would happen if something that we did not expect to find in our way has been left or placed in our path? What if an article of clothing slipped to the floor from the dresser, chair, or hook where it had been placed? What if a book fell off the shelf where it had been? What if the dog or cat knocked something over that was standing or resting on the floor (but out of the way before it fell) or off of a piece of furniture or shelf and onto our path? 

Vision, lighting, and a clear path are helpful for getting to various places in our or home or in retrieving items from a closet, drawer, or other storage areas. Familiarity with our living space is great, but just because we generally know where things are located and can walk from point A to point B without stumbling, walking into anything, or encountering any obstacles in our way, does not mean that our space is pronounced safe and accessible.

Assume that someone is visiting us - invited to some event, get-together, party, or occasion in our home. They don't know our home and its layout near as well as us - how could they? Some people might be visiting for the first time and others come occasionally. Maybe for those returning to our home, they will see some decorating changes that we have made (new paint on the walls, new furniture or flooring, a new light fixture or lamp, or anything else that wasn't in place the last time they visited). We have long since adapted and gotten used to those changes, but they are experiencing them for the first time.

What happens when our guests close their eyes (so to speak) and walk to the bathroom, go down the stairs to the basement, go outside to the backyard, go to the guest bedroom to stay overnight, or walk to the kitchen to join others or get something to eat or drink? How easy are they going to find their pathways? Are there any challenges they might encounter?

Lighting illuminates the path, but lack of anything encroaching on the walking area is key for safe passage. Effective lighting (bright enough and well-aimed and dispersed for the area it is illuminating) shows us that there is nothing in our way, eliminates shadows, crevices, or other visual distractions (as long as it doesn't create more in the form or glare or odd reflections). It also shows us when there is something to be sidestepped that we could run into or potentially trip over it we hadn't seen it.

Whether it is us or the guests and visitors that come into our homes, safe passage and navigation in and throughout our homes are essential. For our clients, the same is true. We owe it to them to provide such safe passageways and enjoyment for people coming into their homes - including themselves. After we learn how to make our own homes safe, we can take our program to the marketplace to help others.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place books. To learn about this and other programs for aging in place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.